Libertarians: Perception vs. Reality

Democrats’ and Republicans’ nearly century-and-a-half old lock on political office is primarily enabled by three factors:

  1. The power of elected officials (conferred after 1880’s reforms) to control the ballot, enacting legislation that makes it as difficult as possible for all but the dominant parties to seek or win office.
  2. The success they’ve met in convincing voters that a vote for anyone other than an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ is wasted.
  3. The still-widespread notion that all (or at least most) Libertarians (the third-largest party in the U.S.) are dope-smoking polygamist anti-war hippies.

Though the net result of their slightly different methods of stealing our liberty is the same, each party promotes the belief that the other is ruining/will ruin the country/state/county/city. Therefore you should cast your vote for the candidate of Party A, even if you’re not 100% on board with their platform, because God forbid that horrible Party B guy win.

About the only thing you can get Democrats and Republicans to agree on is that no candidates from other parties should be on the ballot. IMO this is because each knows the majority of voters are not partisan die-hards, nor is the majority well-informed about candidates and issues. In the run-up to Presidential elections we often hear that it’s the independents who’ll push one candidate or another across the 270-vote threshold. Side issue, but I suspect the majority of independents aren’t really independents as much as they are political bystanders about 1,450 – 1,460 days of every four-year cycle. Regardless, neither party wants to give up any possible edge, and each tries to convince the bystanders-I-mean-independents that their guy is the lesser of two evils.

Most scholars follow Anthony Downs in emphasizing the usefulness of ideology as a “shortcut” to predicting the likely policies of opposing parties competing for office. Generally ignored, but at least equally important, is the comparative inability of nonideological voters to spot interconnections among issues.

When Ignorance Isn’t Bliss – How Political Ignorance Threatens Democracy (PDF) – Ilya Somin

Rastafarian Tim Jenkins


With a third choice, many voters would pick that candidate just to avoid voting D or R. Add to that the growing number of Libertarians who refuse to vote for either when given two bad choices, and a third choice definitely spells T R O U B L E for the Asses and Elephants. They are well aware, I’m sure.

Once I started paying more than a passing attention to politics, I began to realize that, for the most part, I didn’t like much of anything I heard from politicians or partisan folk. Nor did I trust most of it. I assumed that because I was on the conservative side I must be a Republican. I certainly wasn’t dumb enough to be a Democrat. But the more I saw of Republican politicians and policies the more I realized I wasn’t dumb enough to be a Republican, either. I started reading various libertarian writings, and pretty quickly concluded that my ideological home was in libertarianism.

The actual acceptance of the libertarian label was a bit of a struggle. Because like probably most non-libertarians, I thought they were all…well, that dope-smoking guy with the dreads. Mind you, I never even tried pot – or any drug, for that matter. I’m vehemently anti-drug. Also, while I do embrace a few practices that extreme right-wingers would consider hippie-like, I am about as straight-laced as you can get. Yet here I was aligning myself with a group that is stereotypically the opposite of conservative.

Thing is, the stereotype is largely bullshit. There is room among libertarians for Rastafarians, for sure – but there’s also room for home-schooling, Bible-believing Christians, or anyone else that can’t stand that the government uses force to achieve its goals, which usually involve some sort of social engineering toward a bureaucratic ideal.

Republicans would have you believe that because libertarians are hands-off when it comes to things that don’t infringe on other people’s liberty that means we support – enthusiastically, even – that thing. And Democrats, because they know libertarians don’t approve of government theft, even when it’s purportedly used for the poor, say libertarians want babies to starve.

So, it was with these stereotypes in mind that I accepted the libertarian label. And then I started meeting other libertarians. And guess what? Almost none of them smoke pot. I would say none, but I can’t be 100% sure. Several of them are total squares like me and have never even tried it, which – FYI – is far below the mainstream average of 42%. They are also married people, by and large, or in years-long relationships if they are in their 30’s or older. They have kids. And dogs. Some are religious, some are not. Their professions run the gamut from blue collar to attorneys to small business owners. They’re responsible, trustworthy, self-reliant people. Not people who sit around and smoke dope instead of going to work or taking care of their kids.

The establishment needs you to believe you must fall in behind the major parties. They need you to believe one of them will be the country’s savior if they can only gain control, and it’s a lie. They’ve had their chance and have gotten us where we are today – deeply in debt, with innumerable rules and regulations, and feeling as though everybody is out to get us and surrender to them is our only hope.

Don’t trust Democrats. Don’t trust Republicans. Read up on libertarianism and decide if you, too, might need to look beyond the stereotype.

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